Oh boy, I could go on for quite a long time about my roles with each of these organizations. I love the excitement, and I love the crazy hours along with the stresses that come with it too.
Marketing, Events & Multimedia Specialist
Hamilton Bulldogs, PrimeTime Sports and At Least 3 More!
×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The interview with Patrice Whiffen was conducted via a phone conversation and later transcribed. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
I know you are involved in many sport-related positions, with many sport-related organizations! One of them is the Director of Marketing and Media for PrimeTime Sports & Entertainment. Plus tell us about your positions with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
I’ll begin with PrimeTime Sports. I have been with the company since its inception, and I have worked my way up. I started as an intern and was promoted to part-time staff. I eventually got to where I am now, working on PrimeTime’s full-time staff and now leading their events. PrimeTime Sports is a multifaceted sports management consulting company based in Toronto; Every day is very different. The scope of what the company does is quite extensive, but we are a tiny team of people.
With the Hamilton Bulldogs, I am the Manager of Game Operations and Community Relations. At the same time, I am the host during games! So I manage quite a few things at once [laughs].
I started with the Hamilton Bulldogs at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season as their in-arena host. It kind of all happened by accident, when the In-Arena Host that they had lined up, bailed about four days before the home opener. A former colleague of mine was running game operations at the time and knew that I had radio and television experience. He reached out and asked me to fill in, and while the rest is history!
Following my first season with the team, my boss resigned to pursue a new role with the Belleville Senators. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had recommended to his boss that they interview me to fill his role. Flash forward a few months – I became the Manager of Game Operations, but the team also wanted me to maintain my hosting role.
I absolutely love the challenge of juggling both. I am very fortunate to have an amazing team on game nights, so they definitely help keep things on track. During the week I focus on partnership fulfillment, as well as scripting and planning for upcoming games, but once I finished hosting a game night meeting, I take over my hosting duties, and allow my team to carry out their role effectively.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As far as day to day, I’m dealing with anything from our corporate partners, events logistics, sales strategies & approaches, and getting the word out in the marketplace. I also deal with our internal team like our organizing team as we plan for our annual conference each year. In addition, I oversee our messaging out into the public; Whether it be through online communication and social media consumer newsletters. Every day for me is fundamentally very different, but that keeps things exciting and allows me to challenge myself and take on new tasks continually.
When was the point you realized you were meant to do this career?
I went to University in London, Ontario, and I kind of assumed I would work in sports or entertainment as they were the only two subjects I was interested in. From a hobby standpoint, I loved going to sporting events and concerts. I knew that this was something I always wanted to do except I didn’t know what a job in either field looked like.
I worked as a brand ambassador part-time for a marketing company out of high school to gain field experience. It was a lot of fun, and it exposed me to various events from a different perspective. I was then hired by that same marketing company the following year to work their events department and help with the coordination of live events they were doing. A lot of those events were more sport-specific, like golf tournaments throughout the summer. The following year I had a full-time job lined up with a marketing company, and they decided they were going to close their events department altogether. They moved in a completely different direction, and they ended up moving in the magazine print industry and going completely content-based. All of a sudden, I was without a job, and a couple of clients that I had worked with in the previous summer were without an event company.
At that time, I was asked by one of the clients, “Hey, you ran this event last year, any chance you can run it?”. At this point, I didn’t have an office, and I was 19 years old. I didn’t have any direction as far as what it took to start up a company. At that point, I was looking for an opportunity, and that was it; I said: “yes absolutely”. It was only one golf tournament that summer between my second year and third year of University. That was my full-time shtick, and I loved it. I loved working for myself. I loved being directly responsible to the clients and seeing their event come to fruition from beginning to end. Being able to build out this vision they had was rewarding to me. It was at that point that I decided, “okay this is what I want to do, I want to be on the events tier, I want to be in sports entertainment”; I loved the idea that it would be a challenge. I love the excitement, and I love the crazy hours along with the stresses that come with it too.
At that point, I continued to develop my portfolio on clients that I was working for, and my business grew through word of mouth marketing and organic networking at different events I was running. Now I’m at a point where I am very fortunate to have a vast portfolio of clients that I have worked for over the years. Some clients are short term and only need support for a one-off event, but there are lots of clients I work with regularly and help pull together either their live events, marketing strategies, and/or communication strategies. Like I said earlier, every day is very different. My job keeps me in a position where I continue to evolve, learn and challenge myself every day. I love the people I get to work with and all the various clients that I have seen over the last ten plus years.
How have you been able to manage the stress of meeting deadlines that comes along with working in sport and event mangement?
Time management is a skill set that you should be working on while in school; Do not wait until your out in the work world to get that mastered. Every program is different, but a lot of times, students have 20 hours of class per week. This usually is not even close to what a regular workweek would be, so master the skill of time management.
I’m a big list maker, and I like the feeling of fulfillment that comes with crossing something off my list once I have done it. I’m old school, and I use an agenda. I love being able to highlight tasks and crossing the job off when it is completed. A lot of people use their phones, that’s cool too, mainly find a method that works for you and stick with it. Force yourself to create a sense of structure and accountability.
The other advice I have is don’t be afraid to go for something that’s a little out of your comfort zone. That’s the main thing that I have tried to focus on in my career, and there is never going to be the exact right time where you’re 100% ready to do anything. Go for different things, put yourself out of your comfort zone, network with people you have never met before. That’s another thing a lot of students hear this word network, and they think, “Oh, I need to network, that means I need to reach out to 80 people on LinkedIn, and they will all connect with me, and I’ll be good.” That’s not necessarily how it works, and in fact, I wouldn’t say that more connections bring you anything. Meet people and develop that bond with them and have it be an authentic bond too. If you connect with someone and you aren’t really vibing for lack of better terms, move on and thank them for their time. Find some mentors in the industry who can help you walk in the direction you want to move in, and don’t be afraid to say thank you to someone for their time and move on to someone different if it’s not working.
The sport event management side of the industry sometimes gets stereotyped for attracting detail-oriented individuals. Do you think this is fair to say?
I think you have to be detail-oriented. So, as far as the stereotype goes I think I 100% embrace it. And it’s a good thing!
There are a lot of moving pieces required to run an organized live sport or entertainment event. It’s so important to stay on top of all those parts because if one thing happens to slip, it can easily create a domino effect. So being detailed oriented is insanely necessary.
With that being said, I don’t think it has to be an inherent skill. I believe that being detailed oriented is something you can work at and learn.
Shifting over to the marketing aspect of this industry. How important is it for people working in marketing within the sport to be able to write? What level of writing is expected?
I think having excellent writing and communication skills are an essential component in the marketing field. On the marketing side of my role, I do have a strong communication background, but for those who are in my position and don’t have those skills, they bring in a team of people that can assist them.
Focusing on developing your writing skills while you’re in school can be crucial to your success in any industry, especially when we live in a world with communication through short text messages. Again it’s not something that has to be an inherent feature of yourself, it’s something that you can learn and practice.
Even composing a professional email is very important. The way you communicate via email can help translate to either marketing campaigns or verbiage associated with the marketing materials you have. I think it’s essential, and anything you can do to strengthen your writing skills is a great way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Which tools and apps do you recommend to help others work more productively and efficiently? Clearly you have to have a number of them to keep track of the many sport organizations you have on your plate.
There are so many resources out there that I’m continually learning about. There are different things you can use:
REV: REV is very good for transcribing!
Google Calendar: Google Calendar is useful as far as an organizational plan.
Later: As far as communication and social media, Later is excellent!
Sprout: Sprout is sufficient for online communication tools.
Task Rabbit: Task Rabbit is a service that connects you with people in your environment that can help you tackle any tasks that you have. I find that in the events space employing people from Task Rabbit to help with something quick and easy can be a big help. You don’t have to employ them for more than a couple of hours and that allows you to be more productive, I find that to be a handy tool. But definitely, those would be the ones I say that immediately come to mind.
Marilyn's Final Thoughts
Patrice Whiffen is everywhere! Not literally, but you get what I mean [laughs]. I appreciate her sharing real-life examples and the type of skills that can be attained to succeed and maintain the longevity of a career in sport and entertainment. With all the sport-related roles and organizations Patrice has in her portfolio, this was one of the most unique interviews we’ve ever done. From marketing to brand strategy to content management projects and events, Patice Whiffen is EVERYWHERE! Of course, it’s a lot to handle at once, But Patrice’s passion for people and bringing their ideas to life has created a rewarding, satisfying and fulfilling career in the sport industry.